Buying a used car (Part 2)

As promised, this is the second part of the guidelines to “Buying a used car”. If you have not read the first part, you need to do so immediately. To read it, click here.

Today on Drive-Right, we will be wrapping up our guidelines on “Buying a Used Car”.

Buying a Used Car (continued)

One important thing about buying a used car that I did not mention in the first part is “the importance of knowing a lot about the specific car you want to buy and the common issues they have”.

This is where I made a mistake and ended up buying a lemon. I did not know that 2007 Kia Rios had engine problems which required that they are replaced a little over 100,000 miles.

I just went there with the mindset of reviewing a Toyota or a Honda; those vehicles will leak oil on the sides and still not smoke or have major engine issues. This false perception of engines made me believe that the Rio’s engine was good too, not knowing it was almost dead. The price was too good to be true too, just #500,000.

It drove well too and didn’t smoke noticeably so I dismissed it as a good buy for the price. How wrong I was!

I don’t want you to make that mistake, do your research, search for problems associated with the vehicle, then check it in line with what you already know about it.

Let’s continue with the checks.

Start the engine 

 Watch out for the oil pump indicator; should go off immediately the engine comes to life. If it doesn’t, there could be an issue with the oil pump sensor or the engine oil pump might be on its way out the door, and the day it fails, the engine fails too. Have them verify which one is faulty, but, walk away if it is the oil pump.

Smoke check

Go to the back of the vehicle and check the exhaust for the kind of smoke coming out of it. The ideal condition of the exhaust gas should be colourless; no coloured gas should come out of the exhaust.

Smoke is different from steam. Steam will come out of the engine on a cold morning and it is often accompanied with little water. A steaming engine is nothing bad, even so, it’s a sign of a good engine.

If you see white smoke coming out of the exhaust, please walk away. I advise you to do this because any kind of white smoke in the exhaust is evidence that the engine is somehow burning oil. The different causes could be worn piston rings, worn valve seals, cracked heads… anything that will really require you to open up the engine! So, do yourself a favor, walk away.

WHITE SMOKE, BAD SMOKE
WHITE SMOKE, BAD SMOKE

Another quick way to diagnose an engine burning oil is to rub a white handkerchief on the rear bumper after the test drive. If you see black soot on it, it is burning oil.

If you see black smoke coming out from the exhaust, this is an indication that the combustion in the cylinders is incomplete. This is caused by a number of things including but not limited to failed spark plugs, bad injectors, problems with the ECU, mass airflow sensor issues etc. You might want to have that checked before buying the vehicle so you will not be buying something that will cost you a lot of money on repairs later.

Black smoke
Black smoke

However, black smoke does not generally mean a bad engine though something is definitely wrong!

Check for unnecessary noises

Move to the engine bay and listen closely for metal-to-metal contact and grinding noise in the engine. Ideally, the engine should run smoothly and silently, no metal-to-metal contact, no grinding noise, nothing (check video below). 

If you hear metal-on-metal contact, it’s an indication of a lot of different possible problems like worn metals, a worn crankshaft or piston slap… In short, don’t buy it. The engine is on its way out.

If you are good move to the next stage.

Electricals check

When buying a used car, you want to make sure it has no electrical issues. For this part, you will need a gadget or a professional to help you.

Nowadays, there are very many cheap OBD-II scanners which do a good job of checking the present condition of the engine. They give you a live information feed of the engine on your Android phone just by connecting the device to the car and to your phone. The reputable scanners popularly used include FIXD, ELM and a host of others. You can get an OBD-II scanner for as low as #6000. 

FIXD SENSOR
FIXD SENSOR

It will give you live information concerning the state of the engine, the state of the vehicle’s electrical system, pull up error codes… save you a lot of stress. Getting one will be worth it.

ELM SENSOR
ELM SENSOR

If you want one, I’m happy to announce that very soon we’ll be selling them on the website. You might as well just call on us to help you check your car (T&C apply).

If the car does not pull up any major error codes, it is time to take it for a spin.

Test drive 

Take it for a test drive for about 30 minutes so that the vehicle can reveal to you all the different possible hidden problems. As a result, the engine will heat up to working temperature and you would have enough time to diagnose the car.

While going on the test drive, make sure everything is quiet, nobody is talking and the radio is off because you want to listen attentively for any squeaks and rattles. If the owner of the car is with you, politely tell him to keep quiet. Some people might want to distract you or mask the different noises coming out of the vehicle with his voice or the radio so just have him keep quiet while you listen attentively.

Things to note

  • Have a feel of all the gears; count from the first to the 5th or 6th gear as the case may be. Ensure that it engages smoothly and easily.
  • Look for a rough road path so you can have a good feel of the shocks, and the suspension in general.
  • Turn the steering wheel left and right to know if there are any gaps in the steering wheel. Accelerate without holding the steering, consequently, you will know if the vehicle pulls to one side.
  • To confirm your suspicion, slam the brakes without holding the steering wheel. In both cases, the car should keep going in a straight line, if it pulls to one side, this is indicative of a range of issues like worn brake lines, sticking calipers, traction and alignment problems, etc….
  • Check the temperature gauge, it should not go above the middle for any reason. If it does, the engine has cooling issues.
  • While taking this drive, watch out for the oil pump pressure indicator coming on. If it does, it is confirming that the pump is weak.

Most of these problems should be detected under 5 mins though.

Discuss the price

If the car has fulfilled all these criteria, gladly discuss the price.

Make sure you make a good bargain. You can start by halving the price, and working your way up from there.

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